April 7, 1970 was another step forward in transforming our new house into a finished home. When we bought the house, the lawn work had never been completed, and we understood that. The excavated material left from digging the basement piled up in a mound about 10 feet from the rear of the house. Dirt to the left of us, dirt to the right, and a dirty mini-mountain behind us. In winter there was a considerable amount of snow on this mound and the girls had fun climbing up the back side and sliding down the front. I took some home movies of them with the 8 mm camera I had purchased 10 years ago when I was in the air Force. It was the last home movie I shot. Super 8 mm superseded 8 mm format, and regular 8 mm film was not as readily available as it once was.
So, the mini-mountain had to go. Marge and I had a talk about our finances and our goals concerning the yard. After talking, we agreed that the first activity was to install the lawn. After completing the lawn, we would plant some flowers, trees and shrubs ourselves. The lot was 1/2 of an acre and the lawn area amounted to about 20,000 sq. feet.
This job involved much work to complete. Grading the property came first to correct the levels and slopes due to the yard being on a hill sloping in two directions. This done, power raking came next and then finish raking by hand. Next the starter fertilizer would be applied. The lawn was not of the best soil, just a layer of topsoil over a considerable amount of shale rock. Shale is a sedimentary rock and was chiefly in the form of chips about the size of a half-dollar. Our Kentucky blue grass permanent lawn would be followed with quick-growing rye grass to protect the permanent blue grass. The last step was another raking to cover the seed and rolling to firm it in the ground.
As with anything major, Marge and I discussed what we wanted together. We were partners, a team, so we shared in the decisions that affected both of us. We invited a Landscape Contractor, Mr. Andrew Major of the Maple Rock Nursery in Coopersburg to visit us and give us a bid. We liked him. He appeared capable and competent. We received his bid on the 7th of April. The bid was in the amount of $650 for the job. That was about 75% of my monthly take home pay then in 1970. We really wanted to get the work done in the spring. Marge and I jointly discussed this and on the 15th of April we agreed to Mr. Major’s proposal. The contractor completed the work in May and we paid him on June 4th.
It was now Marge’s turn on this project, becoming physically involved with the lawn. It required moisture for the seed to germinate. We had plenty of rain in our area, but you couldn’t count on it. Marge’s job description called for her to water the lawn before it got dry. I was at the office every day so she had to shoo away birds looking for seeds to eat, and water as required. This involved taking the hose with a sprinkler head attached and spraying over the entire lawn if it didn’t look like rain. No small task with 1/4 acre of land to water by hand.
Marge did her job well, sprinkling the lawn and scaring away the birds. We did have some weed problems. This was not surprising as the lot was just part of an uncultivated field before the construction. One weed in particular, was very noxious and grew very fast. I asked somebody about this in the garden section of a store in Coopersburg. I discovered the weed was burdock. Here is a definition I found of the plant.
“Burdock is best recognized as a stout, common weed with annoying burrs that stick to animal fur and clothing. This plant grows relatively tall therefore having deep roots which are brownish green, or nearly black on the outside. The basal rosette of leaves stays close to the ground the first year and the beginning of the second. These basal rosettes can grow up to 1 metre wide.” I understand the roots are edible but certainly nothing anybody would want in their yard. I bought some herbicide to spray on the plants as they came up and it worked well.
I found a photo of the house and yard taken in June 1970. The grass is growing, though we still have a little problem with weeds.
May 1970 marked the 10th anniversary of our wedding. Our anniversary present to ourselves was having the lawn installed. Marge became a field hand looking after the new lawn-to-be. Practical but not pretty. The lawn of course, not Marge, who still looked great.
Instead of being “starving students” we were now at least in the center of the middle class. We had two children, two cars and a two car garage to put them in, a new suburban home on a 1/2 acre lot. I was finding my way into my newly created job, in an industry I had no experience in, and did not directly draw on my recently acquired MS degree. Marge made new friends, as did I, and PP&L was the best run company I ever worked for. We would be there still were it not for the oil shocks later in the decade which decimated the economy in eastern Pennsylvania.
There are still many more memories of our stay in PA, and I plan recalling them in print in later posts
To view website full size slide shows click on SLIDESHOW . If you see a slide you like, pause the show and click on the image and choose an option that appeals to you,